Tom Bouska, Department of Human Services Western Iowa Service Area Administrator, met with the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Bouska has been traveling around to each of the counties in his service area that will soon have their DHS Offices classified as below part-time status.
It was announced recently that Cherokee County, along with Page, Decatur, Appanoose, Monroe, Mills, Madison, Marion, Keokuk, Washington, Poweshiek, Crawford, Boone, Tama, Jones, Jackson, Delaware, Hardin, Plymouth, Wright, Bremer, Kossuth and Winnebago will be placed by the DHS below part-time status.
The DHS also is consolidating a group that processes certain Medicaid applications in Council Bluffs, and a unit that determines eligibility for subsidized childcare in Des Moines to replace regional groups.
In addition, the DHS will be consolidating three services, including a statewide child abuse intake unit that will be based in Des Moines.
The new unit with 34 employees will consolidate eight units around the state with 44 workers. Intake units currently are located in Dubuque, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Ames, Des Moines, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.
DHS spokesman Roger Munns recently said the consolidations will help do the same work with fewer people and that they did not expect layoffs as a result.
DHS Director Charles Krogmeier added the consolidation would help ensure the department is consistent in its response to calls of possible cases of child or dependent adult abuse.
"We want to make sure that complaints of abuse are evaluated the same, no matter where they originate," Krogmeier said in a statement.
The consolidations are part of a reorganization of the vast state agency.
Bouska told the Board that changes would start to be seen in the next four to five weeks. He also informed the Board that these types of changes are not uncommon. Every 10 years the DHS makes adjustments after receiving data for the census, Bouska said that due to the state 10 percent budget cuts that changes are coming a couple of years early.
As for services that will still be available at the Cherokee DHS office was yet unclear. Bouska stated that many of the services will be provided online or by phone. If a client needs a face-to-face meeting, an appointment will have to be made.
Bouska also claimed that electronic case files are currently in development and so any office in the state would have access to cases.
Bouska downplayed the effects on reducing Cherokee to the below part-time status. He stated that such changes have taken place before and the DHS and clients have adjusted.
In 2002, 34 county offices were converted to below part-time. Internet applications for benefits along with other changes have reduced the need for in-person visits to county offices, officials have previously stated.
Bouska also stated that currently there are 2000 DHS employees and that number will be reduced to around 1700 in 2011.
Early retirement is being offered but the majority of DHS employees who will be losing their jobs are predicted to be maintenance staff and social workers. Bouska said that they would be trying to keep as many front line staff. Workers will also have the choice of relocating to different offices throughout the state depending where their seniority takes them.
In other business, the Board approved the quarterly revenue reports from the Cherokee County Sheriff's office, presented by Barb Staver, and the Cherokee County Recorder's office, as presented by Dawn Jones Coombs. The Sheriff's office reported its quarterly revenue at $19,692 and the Recorder's office reported its quarterly revenue at $57,502. Of that, $40,000 will go to the state and the rest will remain in Cherokee County.
Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation Director Mark Buschkamp updated the Board on Cherokee Mental Health.
He stated that Cherokee's efforts paid off as the latest news regarding the Cherokee Campus of the MHI is that there will be no lay offs but early retirement will be offered to employees with the knowledge that they would not be replaced.
The Board also asked Buschkamp if he could use his recent connections down in Des Moines to see if there is any thing that could yet to be done on the downsizing of the DHS office. Buschkamp was aware of the situation and thought it was worth a phone call or two to see if there is anything to be done.
But both Buschkamp and the Board stated that due to the budget cuts the writing might be on the wall for the Cherokee DHS offices being reduced to below part-time status.
Also on Tuesday, the Board approved a wage authorization of $14.40 per hour for Sara Lucas for completion of her six month probation at the County Auditor's office. The Board also approved the final employee payout of vacation and compensation hours for Chad Dutler of the Secondary Roads Department in the amount of $4,410.